IF today we cheer Malaysians who stand up for what they believe to be true, please then remember the late Tan Sri Ani Arope.
Ani stood up for what he believed in and against powerful prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad way back in 1996.
Rather than sign off on generous power purchasing agreements with independent power producers in 1995, Ani quit as executive chairman of TNB.
He never looked back with an ounce of regret and a decade later, revealed the reasons that led to his departure from TNB — a utility that transformed from a government agency to a public-listed company during his tenure.
In a newspaper interview in June 2006, Ani gave details of the IPP deals arranged by the powerful Economic Planning Unit (EPU) in the Prime Minister’s Department in 1996.
“There was no negotiation. Absolutely none. Instead of talking directly with the IPPs, TNB was sitting down with the EPU.
And we were harassed, humiliated and talked down every time we went there. After that, my team was disappointed. The EPU just gave us the terms and asked us to agree. I said no way I would.
“It was all fixed up. They said, this is the price, this is the capacity charge and this is the number of years. They said you just take it and I refused to sign the contracts. And then, I was put out to pasture,” he had said.
Ani, who studied in St Xavier’s Institution in Penang and was the only Malay in his class during that time, also described his feelings about the deals that led to the first generation of IPPs in Malaysia.
“I felt sick. It was morally wrong and not fair. If it is legal and not fair, I will not do it. If it is fair and illegal, I still won’t do it. It has to be legal and fair.
“We work for the consumers, workers and shareholders. TNB is morally obligated to these three, but the consumers come first, otherwise we won’t be around. It is then the workers and the shareholders.
“When I said that, they (EPU) said ‘Dia ingat bapak dia-punya’ (He thinks this is his father’s company).
“This job is an amanah (trust). You are entrusted with this responsibility and you carry it out to the best of your ability. I do not want somebody to come and urinate on my grave. In the Malay culture, that is about the worst insult they can do to a man,” said the man who was also Malaysia’s first Fulbright Scholar in 1966.
In a citation for his honorary doctorate of laws in Indianapolis University in 1995, Indianapolis University-Purdue University Indianapolis School of Engineering and Technology dean Alfred R Potvin said this of Ani, “He himself embodies the best result of a liberal education — a skilled generalist, a truly modern-day Renaissance man.”
Malaysia has lost a towering Malaysian, a man who stood up for his beliefs and was willing to pay the price for it. His remarkable achievements in and out of public service should be an inspiration to all Malaysians — that Malaysians can excel and be the best that they can be but also there are lines that cannot be crossed.
That honesty and integrity is more important than honours and positions. That we must stand up for what we believe to be right and true. We had Ani doing that, and now the Group of 25. We must have more because our country needs us to be as principled as the late Tan Sri Ani Arope. — The Malaysian Insider
This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on December 22, 2014.